By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Joe Montana was considered the GOAT for a long time, after his playing career ended at the age of 38. He's since been passed many times over by the ageless Tom Brady, who won a Super Bowl at age 43 and has continued his success this year at age 44.
Brady's always said he plans to play until his mid-40s, though he recently pondered playing until age 50.
Montana took it even further, saying Brady can probably play until he's 60, given how many quarterback hits have been outlawed by the NFL.
"Yeah, they don't even touch him. He's hardly ever getting hit, so he could play till maybe 60, I don't know," Montana told USA Today. "It's always about just the physical part, how well can you handle that part of it? And the way it is with the rules today, he just doesn't take those big hits anymore. Yeah, he gets hit on occasion, but it's never one of those big, you know, 300 pounds compressing you in the ground. They stopped that from being legal. And they just don't do that anymore."
Though there may be a hint of jealousy in the voice of Montana there, it's also largely true. While Brady does get hit plenty ...
... he has benefited from playing in an era where the NFL recognized that losing star quarterbacks to unnecessary injuries is bad for business. While "The Carson Palmer Rule" often wrongly gets referred to as "The Tom Brady Rule," there's no doubt that the current age of the NFL serves to protect quarterbacks whenever possible.
See: Chase Young's most recent "roughing the passer" penalty on Matt Ryan:
At the same time, Brady's never gotten enough credit for his toughness, as he's played through countless injuries and has only missed time for an injury in the 2008 season. Making 192 regular-season starts since 2009 didn't just happen on its own thanks to the rule book. And making 79 starts after turning 40 -- winning two Super Bowls and setting a Super Bowl record for passing yards in another -- is something that almost nobody will ever even try to accomplish, despite the rules applying equally to everybody.
Still, in Montana's estimation, it's the lack of getting hit that has allowed Brady to play so long and will continue to allow him to play for as long as he wants.
"As long as he physically can throw the football -- he's not a runner. You know, he's going to stay in that pocket. As long as you can protect him in there, he'll stay in there," Montana said. "And they're not gonna hit him. So yeah, he'll play for as long as he can keep performing like that. He's got a great team around him, so that doesn't hurt either."
On the one hand, it's an honest take -- one that has more than a little truth to it, and one that many folks will agree with. On the other hand, it's a bit dismissive of the toughness and dedication Brady's displayed while playing at a ridiculous level at a ridiculous age.
The former GOAT sounded a little salty here.
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